Photo: Predrag Trokicic
Photo: Predrag Trokicic

Asked to comment on the statement by the director of the tax administration of Montenegro that he would initiate proceedings for the outstanding debt of the Serbian Orthodox church, which may lead to the forced collection of debt, president Vucic said: “I do not know what to say, I have no problem with that. If we need to assist the Serbian Orthodox Church and the metropolitanate of Montenegro or any other diocese in Montenegro, Serbia will, if necessary, assist the SOC in Montenegro, we won’t let them take our holy sites. Serbia will pay for everything.”

This statement raises several questions. According to which article of the constitution of Serbia is Vucic authorized to make decisions about the funds that will be allocated from the budget, to which all citizens of Serbia contribute, for the purpose of donating money for various nebulous purposes as he sees fit? He ordered a million euros to be allocated for the restoration of the Notre-Dame in Paris, instead of having the government decide on it; he didn’t consult with anyone. Previously, the government’s decision on a donation for the renovation of the burned St. Sava church in New York was mentioned (whether that donation actually happened and to what extent, I do not know), as well as other donations for burned churches and monasteries such as Hilandar. Since Vucic was elected president, the government is never mentioned in such cases, nor in relation to other donations that Vucic gives so generously, although this is within the jurisdiction of the government. One such example is the $ 3 million donation to the Bill Clinton foundation. The president makes these decisions personally, as if he was paying out of his own pocket, and not all of our pockets.

Let’s say that such moves by president Vucic that violate the constitution have become commonplace to us, and have been commented on many times over. But this situation in relation to the SOC in Montenegro is nonetheless exceptional, as it concerns its tax debt. It is clear that in this case one of the fundamental pillars of modern civilization is being ignored, namely the separation of church and state (many constitutions explicitly state this, including ours), but let’s skip this elementary fact (just because it is so elementary) in order to illuminate the scope of Vucic’s arbitrariness. He promises that the state of Serbia will pay SOC tax debts to another state, although it would make much more sense that if anyone was to pay the tax debts of the Montenegrin metropolitanate, it would be the SOC as the parent company, which, by the way, does not pay its taxes to Serbia, either. “Vucic will pay” actually means that all citizens of Serbia will be funding the SOC metropolitanate in Montenegro! As much as we have become accustomed to Vucic’s violation of the constitution and the law, this promise is one step too far. He has become so used to considering everything, the budget in particular, as his own property, that he seems unaware that paying this debt is a robbery of Serbian citizens. This money from our state budget will go to another state and the citizens of Serbia will receive nothing in return for this “donation.

His promise makes even less sense if one knows that Serbia is home not only to Orthodox believers (that is, Serbs) but also believers of Islamic, Jewish, Catholic and Protestant denominations, as well as numerous atheists who have absolutely no reason to fund the SOC and Montenegrin metropolitanate which owes taxes to a country they do not live in. And which is itself very rich. Vucic did not even ask about the amount he plans to load on the backs of Serbian taxpayers, but said that he “has no problem with that”, he’ll pay whatever you ask, anything to preserve our “holy sites”. As if the Montenegrin state levies a tax on holiness and not on property owned by the SOC metropolitanate.

We’ve said it many times: Serbia should stop interfering in the internal affairs of neighboring countries, as well as in the internal affairs of the Serbian Orthodox Church (and the Church should also stop interfering in the affairs of the state), and in no way should it interfere with the payment of taxes of the Montenegrin metropolitanate at the expense of the citizens of Serbia, without any procedure, but by simple robbery of the gullible who would believe that he is supposedly saving “our holy sites.”

Translated by Marijana Simic

Pešč, 03.03.2020.

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Vesna Pešić, političarka, borkinja za ljudska prava i antiratna aktivistkinja, sociološkinja. Diplomirala na Filozofskom fakultetu u Beogradu, doktorirala na Pravnom, radila u Institutu za društvene nauke i Institutu za filozofiju i društvenu teoriju, bila profesorka sociologije. Od 70-ih pripada peticionaškom pokretu, 1982. bila zatvarana sa grupom disidenata. 1985. osnivačica Jugoslovenskog helsinškog komiteta. 1989. članica Udruženja za jugoslovensku demokratsku inicijativu. 1991. članica Evropskog pokreta u Jugoslaviji. 1991. osniva Centar za antiratnu akciju, prvu mirovnu organizaciju u Srbiji. 1992-1999. osnivačica i predsednica Građanskog saveza Srbije (GSS), nastalog ujedinjenjem Republikanskog kluba i Reformske stranke, sukcesora Saveza reformskih snaga Jugoslavije Ante Markovića. 1993-1997. jedna od vođa Koalicije Zajedno (sa Zoranom Đinđićem i Vukom Draškovićem). 2001-2005. ambasadorka SR Jugoslavije, pa SCG u Meksiku. Posle gašenja GSS 2007, njegovim prelaskom u Liberalno-demokratsku partiju (LDP), do 2011. predsednica Političkog saveta LDP-a, kada napušta ovu partiju. Narodna poslanica (1993-1997, 2007-2012).

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